The Photocopy Saga

June 7, 2010 at 6:11 am (Tension, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , )

I have decided that the most evil, malicious creature in all existence is the shared photocopier at work. Admittedly, I can hand my photocopying in, neatly labelled and have someone else do it and return it in around three days but I hate asking people to do something I can easily do.  Easily – if the stupid machine would actually work.

There is a writing related point at the end of this rant – I hope.

I was preparing some materials and needed approximately 60 copies of eight different sheets.  Some were being done back to back, some needed stapling, some needed to be enlarged, shrunk or whatever. No problem.

Ran off the first sheet. It beeped away and hummed and did its thing and only had three paper jams during the run and only sprayed toner over four of the pages. That counts as success with this photo copier.

Next run, out of paper.  Fill it up with paper and resume. No toner left. Because it sprayed it over the last run but fine (I’ll resist the urge to shake the machine and just get on with fixing it).

Walk to the main office, request toner, wait until they look up which toner goes in that photocopier, get toner, read directions, place in machine and oh, wait for it to realise it now has toner.

Three more sheets and then there is a paper jam.

Five more after that, it runs out of staples (okay,really wanting to hurt the machine at this point).

The bottom line is I ended up spending nearly forty minutes doing something that shouldn’t have taken very long and I should have accomplished easily. And I didn’t actually finish the run. I still had three sheets that I hadn’t photocopied at all.

My writing related point. Just because something sounds easy, doesn’t mean it will be. Your character can be perfectly capable of completing what should be a very easy task and yet something can happen to make it an absolute nightmare.



  1. ShenLun said,

    So you problem is not necessarily the photocopier but the lack of maintenance and care it has been given. The running out of stapes etc is not it’s fault, nor the toner.

    IF paper is constantly jamming it could be a fault with one of the feeders or most likely the person just shoved the paper with out fanning it out. Of course there is the usual female error ( I only say this is that when i used to fix them most of the sectaries were female). This error was not because of there gender but because there all were lots of jewellery whilst removing paper jams from machines. This does more harm then good to the poor DEFENSELESS machines

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think you miss the critical point of a rant. When a female rants it is usually to vent, not to find solutions.

  2. Study Window said,

    This made me laugh out loud, although ruefully. I used to work in a university department with just such a temperamental shared photocopier. One day I was interviewing a candidate for a place on the following year’s course and asked her if she had had any difficulty finding us. “Oh no,” she replied. “My uncle is a photocopier engineer.” That was it. She didn’t say anything else. It was clearly self-evident that every photocopier engineer in the world knew how to get to our department. Ow!

  3. smander said,

    Cassandra Jade do you work as a teacher? My guess from your comment about needing 60 sheets is that you needed two class sets….

    I checked. Turns out I’m right. Go teachers!!! What are your thoughts about the new curriculum?

    Anyway…about your point. With the last bit, “Your character can be perfectly capable of completing what should be a very easy task and yet something can happen to make it an absolute nightmare” do you mean that we should make something bad happen to make our character’s life exciting? After all, reading about other people’s nightmares can be really fun!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I defintely think that characters are more interesting when things are going bad for them – maybe I’m just cruel.

      Great skills of deduction there. I must applaud.

  4. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    Paper jams! Ohhhh. So frustrating. And whenever I try to pull them out of my printer, the papers tear. So then I have a fragment of a page to try to work out of the jam. ARGH!

    And you’re right…our characters can have lots of little stressers…like this….to add conflict to a scene, too.

  5. AlexJ said,

    Your work’s copy machine is related to mine! Evil creature.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Totally evil and I’m sure it has an evil plan to take over all other copiers until no one can copy paper ever again. Maybe not, but sometimes it feels that way.

  6. Carol Kilgore said,

    Oh yes!

    Perfect for characters, but too bad the mess happened to you.

  7. laurelrainsnow said,

    Oh, I can definitely relate to all of this! I think it’s great when we can turn moments like these into intriguing scenarios for our characters and know that people reading them can probably relate. Hey, it’s a writer’s version of taking lemons and making lemonade!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I think the more cretaive part of this process was my imagining all the things I would like to do to the copier in question.

  8. Lynn Rush said,

    OMG. I’m laughing out loud. Copy machines are so NOT my friend.

    I like your point, though, about the sounding easy but isn’t necessarily easy. That is soooo true.

  9. catwoods said,

    Cassandra, may the copy machine gods forever smile on you from this day forth.

    I love how you linked this little inconvenience to writing. It’s a great reminder for us that even easy things can turn out poorly. Not every conflict has to be life or death to move the story along.

    Great post~ cat

  10. Shannon said,

    This made me laugh loudly! I couldn’t agree more – copy machines are scary, vile beasts. I’ve actually broken a couple.

    Have you ever seen Office Space? 😉

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I love the nerds revenge on the machine in Office Space. Was it a copier or a fax? I don’t remember but it was a great moment.

  11. Jane Kennedy Sutton said,

    Isn’t it strange how the very machines and appliances that are meant to save us time are often guilty of costing us more time!) And yet I’d hate to do without them – and they do provide great material for for funny rants such as yours.

  12. Jemi Fraser said,

    Totally understand the shared photocopier peeve – nothing worse than coming in to use it and it’s in a jam already! Grrrr!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Nothing worse than people walking away from a jammed machine. Seriously, fix it or alert someone else to fix it before you wander off.

  13. Smander said,

    Dear Cassandra!

    I really enjoy your blog and have recently added it to my blogroll. I look forward to reading your new posts. Keep up the great work!

  14. Lua said,

    I love how you made the connection between the photocopy machine and writing! I do that all the time, if something unexpected, interesting or frustrating happens I would tell myself, “see, writing is just like that…” 🙂
    But you’re absolutely right, I’m finding out that sometimes those things we assume easy are the hardest things to do…

  15. Stephen Tremp said,

    Photo copiers and me do not get along. At work or at home, we just seem to have difference of opniions. Irreconciable differences. A love hate relationship. Maybe one day we’ll reconcile and get it together.

    Stephen Tremp

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I love how many people have a shared experience with hating office equipment. It apparently is universal of people who rely on dodgy machines to get their work done.

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